Cultural Beliefs and Science

As I was searching for information for the solar eclipse project, I chanced upon very interesting myths from all over the world.

China

Ancient Chinese believed that the phenomenon- Solar Eclipse was a bad omen. The eclipse would predict the future of the king or emperor. Emperor Zhong Kang had beheaded two astronomers Hsi and Ho, for failing to predict an eclipse 4,000 years ago. Others believed that a celestial dragon ate up the sun. People banged drums and pots to make loud noises to scare away the dragon. Some even tried even to shoot the dragon down by using arrows.

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Dragon “swallowing” the sun

India

People in ancient India believed that the gods beheaded demon Rahu for capturing and drinking ambrosia. Rahu’s head flew off in the sky and swallowed the Sun causing what is now known as an eclipse. Another version of the story was that the demons Rahu and Ketu swallowed the sun and sucked all the lifeogiving light and poisoned food and water during that period of “swallowing of sun”. Therefore, thet do not eat food during solar eclipse instead they prayed and fasted. Once the eclipse was over they  bathed, cooked fresh food and consumed it. During solar eclipse pregnant women in India were advised to stay indoors.

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The Hindu Demon Rahu (Swallowing the sun?)

Japan

During solar eclipses, the Shintos in Japan placed the  talisman — a precious stone studded necklace — on the branches of the scared Clauria tree. The brilliance of these stones was thought to compensate for the amount of sunlight lost during the eclipses. At some places bonfires were lit as a substitute for the talisman.

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Vietnam

“In Vietnam, people believed that a giant frog was devouring the Sun, while Viking cultures blamed wolves for eating the Sun and causing a solar eclipse.”

Northwestern United States

An indigenous group of people,Pomo, who lived in northwestern US  told a story of a bear who started a fight with the Sun and took a bite of it. After taking a bite and resolving their conflict, story continued that the bear went to meet the Moon and took a bite out of the Moon as well, causing what is now known as lunar eclipse.

Interestingly, Solar eclipse, back then, was considered as bad omen or  related to the “sun was swallowed by animal or demon” in the cultures of these countries mentioned. The “chipped off sun” might give the people the impression the sun was bitten by something. Here, we can see that cultures can shape one’s belief. Can science be part of country’s culture? Or Science can never be a culture?

Every country has its culture and beliefs before there is science. What if there is no science till today, will these beliefs still continue? Will they become the science in today context?Cultural Beliefs and Science can they go hand in hand? Can they support each other? An individual can believe in their culture ( such as religions), yet at the same time can still believe in scientific facts and information. Does this mean that people or society actually make a choice in what they want to believe?

References:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/myths-legends-solar-eclipse-342135

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/whats-on/whats-on-news/disaster-coming-ten-myths-associated-8875728

http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/solar-eclipse-myths.html

http://www.pitara.com/non-fiction-for-kids/features-for-kids/myths-legends-related-to-eclipses/

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